Posted in Features on November 9th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Hailing from the rarely-fuzzed outskirts of New Haven, Connecticut, boldly tone-centric trio Curse the Son tap into the primal appeal of heavy rock at its best: classic riffs, unpretentious presentation, weighted groove and obscure lyrics. Their second full-length is called Psychache (review here), and it’s a beast of thickened riffing, spaced-out vocals, feedback-drenched stonerisms and easter-egg rhythmic intricacies. Led by guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore – whose fuzz is consuming and whose vocals blend late-Sabbath Ozzy with the far-back ethereal style of YOB‘s Mike Scheidt — Curse the Son have quickly developed into a standout not only in the Connecticut scene — there isn’t one to speak of — but among genre traditionalists as a whole.
More to the point, Psychachedisplays a resounding development in terms of style and execution from its predecessor, early 2011′s Klonopain(review here). No doubt part of that is the inclusion of drummer Mike Petrucci (also King of Salem, Vestal Claret and the Blue Man Group), whose professionalism in the rhythm section alongside bassist Cheech has brought Curse the Son to a new level entirely, but even in terms of Vanacore‘s own performance, the songs of Psychacheoffer a more confident, solidified listen, whether it’s the long-held notes of “Spider Stole the Weed” or the melodies creeping into opener “Goodbye Henry Anslinger.” The growth may (and hopefully will) prove ongoing, but with Psychache, the Hamden three-piece have sent a clear signal that it’s underway.
In the interview that follows, Vanacore discusses writing and recording the album, bringing in Petrucci on drums, the health problems he experienced in his throat during the time of recording — science has proven time and again that granulomas are some nasty shit — his ongoing musical partnership with Cheech, with whom he played in Sufferghost as well, opening for Kyuss Lives at their Connecticut show, and much more. This is the second time I’ve interviewed Vanacore (first here), and it’s not a coincidence that after hearing Psychache, I hit him up with more questions about the band’s processes and goings on.
Can’t imagine it’ll be the last, either. After seeing them live last year at the Fuzzfest they organized and again at this year’s Stoner Hands of Doom, they’ve made a convincing case for their blend of doomed lurch and engrossing stoner heft. Vanacore’s tone in particular shines through as a defining element, but Cheech‘s running basslines and Petrucci‘s crisp timekeeping are no less essential to the overall impression, the three coming together in classic power trio style with a chemistry still formative but threatening in its potential all the same. In short, I think they’re a good band, and I wanted to give Psychachemore attention. So here we are.
You’ll find the complete Q&A with Vanacore after the jump. Please enjoy.
Posted in Reviews on September 14th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s been about a year and a half since Connecticut stoner doom trio Curse the Son released their first album, and clearly in that time, they’ve been through some changes. That full-length, Klonopain (review here) was a charmingly druggy exercise in riff-led doom, more engaging tonally than in terms of the songwriting, but still a solid showing from a band getting their feet. The upcoming self-released sophomore outing, Psychache, outclasses the debut on every level. I’ll reiterate because it’s worth reiterating that I enjoyed Klonopain a lot – I broke it out recently in advance of the band’s performance at Stoner Hands of Doom XII and found it had held up pretty well – but with Psychache, Curse the Son push themselves further creatively, performance-wise, production-wise and in terms of their songwriting. A notable change is the swapping out of drummer Charles Nicholas for Mike Petrucci (also of Vestal Claret, King of Salem and a percussionist for the touring incarnation of the Blue Man Group), who brings a crisp sense of professionalism that rests well in the pocket with bassist Cheech and guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore (both formerly of Sufferghost), while still also showing a subtle bit of technicality in complex fills and varied timekeeping. Petrucci is no stranger to plod, and in the lumbering riff in the post-chorus bridge of early highlight cut “Spider Stole the Weed,” the drums do more than just highlight the groove – there’s an active drive there – all three members of the band not so much following the riff as pushing it forward. Might be a subtle difference, but it goes a long way, and Vanacore’s vocals have also developed in confidence and range, so all around, Curse the Son emerge through these six tracks/31 minutes as a more mature, professional act. They remain very much of their genre – that is, Psychache is without a doubt a stoner doom album – but the band seems not only to acknowledge this, but to embrace it in a way that few of their peers are willing to do. For that, for Vanacore’s tone, and for the memorable choruses that work their way into several of these songs, Psychache is a brief but potent excursion that leaves its own footprints in well trod sonic paths.
About Vanacore’s tone: Partnered up with Connecticut’s Dunwich Amplifiers, the guitarist gets deep, Sunn-esque low end specifically crafted for the kind of music he’s playing. With Matamp-style richness, the riffs are carried across full in their sound. The production is clearly a step up from that of Klonopain, but it’s still comparatively rough. Nonetheless, the guitar dominates and the songs are all the more dynamic for it. Whether it’s the straight-ahead riff and thud of “Spider Stole the Weed” or the creepy beginning of opener “Goodbye Henry Anslinger,” they remain natural while also holding firm to a modern clarity. That stays true as “Goodbye Henry Anslinger” gets underway with an instrumental introduction that comprises the better part of its first two minutes in establishing the riff before Vanacore’s well-layered vocals kick in. A sense of next-levelism is palpable. In “Goodbye Henry Anslinger,” the riff is a hook, the verse is a hook and the chorus is a hook, and though the track is over six minutes long, it remains catchy for the duration and accessible, showing growth in Curse the Son’s songwriting to match their presentation. The lines “Feels like a revolution/It comes from underground” serve as a memorable chorus and are delivered with classically doomed inflection in a vast echo that’s all the more appropriate for the hugeness of the guitar and Cheech’s bass. Structurally, it’s a basic verse/chorus/bridge/verse/chorus once the vocals kick in, but the psychedelia worked into the break following the first chorus gives the album an immediately varied base to work from, offsetting the riffly chug while Petrucci works a little funk out of the following verse on the bell of his ride cymbal. It’s a strong opening, and the momentum continues with “Spider Stole the Weed,” which boasts another commanding plod and some forceful use of wah in the guitar and bass prior to stopping at around 2:30 and restarting with a faster, more active pulse.
Posted in Features on September 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a gorgeous Saturday morning in East Lyme, Connecticut. Why wouldn’t there be traffic on I-95? Seven hundred gajillion TARP funbucks later, I sat in a miles long line of cars weaving into and out of two exceedingly busy lanes. Much to the chagrin of the dude from Massachusetts next to me with a boat towed off the back of his pickup, I was barely paying attention to my drifting. Some of the sternest looks I’ve had in at least a week.
I managed to sneak in a quick to-go breakfast with The Patient Mrs., who is in the area, and then basically came right here. It’s about 10 to noon now, and I don’t know what time Akris is going to start — they’re setting up now — but when they do, it’ll be the launch of day three of Stoner Hands of Doom XII and the first of two massive all-day shows here at the El ‘n’ Gee in New London.
No doubt it’s going to be a long day, but hell, I’m here. I’ve got a deli sandwich in a cooler in the trunk of my car for later, and enough earplugs to last a month. My plan is basically to do the same as I did yesterday — but, you know, twice as much of it — with updates as the day goes on. Hopefully you enjoy keeping up as much as I do.
SHoD XII day three begins in just a bit. More to come.
UPDATE 12:46PM: Hope you like bass. Akris, the Virginian duo of bassist/vocalist Helena Goldberg and drummer Sam Lohman, fluidly blend thrash, doom and noise, but are also able to dive quickly into runs of progressive technicality. Goldberg played through three heads — Sunn Concert Master and Slave and an Earth Super Bass Producer — and should go without saying was assaultingly, feel-it-in-your-chest loud, and Lohman had his own kit set up toward the front of the stage and off to the site, turned sideways. If I wasn’t awake yet, Akris were loud enough to get the job done, but as overwhelming as it was in terms of volume, the tone wasn’t muddy. The vocals cut through the low end (duh) and I’m not sure whether Lohman‘s drums were actually coming through the P.A. or not — they were mic’ed up, but he looked to be crashing down hard enough to be heard down the street, so who knows — but there was no trouble hearing him either, and even when Goldberg was at her loudest and most raging, everything came through distinct. Their demo was cool and hopefully it’s not too long before they follow it up with either a full-length or an EP. I’d be interested to hear how the dynamic between them came across over the course of a whole album. In the meantime, they were a shot of energy to start the day. Much needed and much appreciated.
UPDATE 1:44PM: From the wilderness of New Hampshire, double-guitar doomly foursome Eerie were quick to align themselves with the extreme. In look and attitude, I half expected the band to bust out throat-ripping screams and searing blasts. Didn’t happen, but they weren’t lacking for grimness besides. Instead, they doomed out a wall of riffs and varied abrasive and clean vocals, relying on steady undulating riffs, not unfamiliar, but hard to place directly somewhere between Cathedral and the semi-psych tonality of earliest Zoroaster. One of the guitarists broke a string early into the set, but if it really affected the sound, I wouldn’t know it. The two guitars played well off each other, and if the broken string did anything, it was force him into a higher register and into starker contrast with his fellow six-stringer. They have a record that I’ll hope to pick up and check out further, but it’s high time New Hampshire’s untamed forests spawned a unit as dark as Eerie — who might need to take a different name for how well it actually describes them. They seemed to have common cause with Statis, who are on next, but what the alliance might be, I don’t know. Either way, if Akris were the stoner hands, Eerie were the doom. Doom like “we only use our first initials” kind of doom.
UPDATE 2:27PM: Well, mystery solved. Stasis‘ drummer — listed on their Thee Facebooks as the mysterious “TBA” — was the same dude who played guitar and handled vocals in Eerie. See? I know it’s precisely that kind of investigative reporting that keeps you coming back to The Obelisk. Anyway, a trio from Portland, Maine — where Revelation and Ogre will doom this very evening — they were more on the sludge end than Eerie before them, but while guitarist/vocalist Michael Leonard Maiewski wasn’t including the same kinds of Euro-doom derived ambient parts, there was still a decent cut of drama in what they were doing. Bassist Mindy Kern had a Warlock or some such bass — many interestingly shaped instruments this weekend — and I don’t know to say for sure, but I think the sound guy working the board here at the El ‘n’ Gee is about ready to hang it up and go get a real estate license. It’s a universal fallback plan. So far, the three bands that have played have been so loud that by the time Stasis were halfway through, he’d left, perhaps in pursuit of lunch, I don’t know for sure. Would require some more of that investigating. I’ll get with the budget office and see if we can swing it. Stasis threw down a little mud, but the wash of low end was obviously intended. Wouldn’t be sludge if it wasn’t dirty.
Curse the Son
UPDATE 3:20PM: Beardbanging all the while, guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore led Hamden, CT, trio Curse the Son down a long trail of smoke to the riff-filled land. Playing through a righteous custom Dunwich amp — they make ‘em pretty — Vanacore’s riffly plod was second to none I’ve heard so far over the course of this year’s SHoD, and with the rhythm section of bassist Cheech and drummer Mike Petrucci stomping away, the band gave a strong herald for their upcoming Psych-achefull-length. Most of what they played seemed new, but I did recognize a tune or two from the prior Klonopain(review here) long-player, but really, old material or new, it’s all about the riffs, and Curse the Son has that down. I’d like to see Vanacore (who’s fighting a sinus infection but didn’t let on on stage) in a beard-off with Ben McGuire from Black Cowgirl, who play later, but in the meantime, Kin of Ettins is on next, having come all the way from Texas for the show. Curse the Son gave them a good lead-in and the crowd seems to be right on board. There’s been a lot to dig about today so far, though it’s hard to believe we’re only four bands into the day.
Kin of Ettins
UPDATE 4:22PM: In a dark venue such as this, it’s kind of easy to lose track of time. Whenever someone opens a door to outside and the sunlight comes in, I’m surprised. It’s still daylight out. It’s four in the friggin’ afternoon. Obviously no one told doomly Dallas four-piece Kin of Ettins that. They rocked like it was well after 11PM, proffering a doom that wouldn’t have been at all out of place on Hellhound Records in the mid-’90s and delivering it with just a hint of Texan swagger and inflection. Bechapeaued guitarist/vocalist Jotun (above) made mention in thanking Rob Levey for putting this together that he and bassist Donar were at the first SHoD in 2001 in Dallas. Must be quite a trip 11 years later to play it in New England, but they did well, and with one hand, guitarist Teiwaz ripped into impressive leads, overcoming some early technical difficulties and making a song like “Snake Den Time,” the title-track of a reportedly coming full-length, a standout. They saved the best for last, however, with the cut “Echoes in the Deep,” which also ended the set on their Doomed in Dallas live EP (review here). Awesome to have them represent the fertile Texas scene at Stoner Hands of Doom, and I’m glad I got to see it.
UPDATE 5:13PM: It’s only been about a month since I saw Black Cowgirl in Philly with The Company Band, so they were pretty fresh in my consciousness, as much as anything is at this point. In that time, however, their self-titled full-length (comprised of two prior EPs put together) has seen its CD release, so they haven’t exactly been sitting still. They were much as they were at the Underground Arts, maybe drummer Mark Hanna was a little less inclined to stand up behind his kit, but beyond that, the two guitars of Ben McGuire and Nate Rosenzweig still worked well together and bassist Chris Casse held down the grooves ably without being overly showy. Someone put themselves in the spot in the bar area where I had been setting up the laptop, so I moved outside, and it’s apparently a pretty fantastic day out. Not quite enough to make me regret spending the whole thing inside the dark club, but still. The thing that stands out most about Black Cowgirl‘s set is the dynamics within the band’s approach. The performances were spot on, but even more than that, their songwriting is strong and varied and their ability to convey that in a live setting like this makes them that much stronger a band.
UPDATE: 6:12PM: Wonderfully monikered Maryland classic doom trio Beelzefuzz just wrapped their set with a cover of Lucifer’s Friend‘s “Ride in the Sky.” A pretty bold choice, given that Trouble did the same tune and The Skull is playing later tonight, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t pull it off, guitarist/vocalist Dana using his pedal board as much for his vocals as for his guitar. And I do mean “vocals,” plural. At several points in the set, he was doing live double-tracking, clicking on to add another of his voice and then clicking off. He got jumbled up doing it, but it was impressive nonetheless, as was his voice in general. Though I dug their demo, I’d only ever seen Beelzefuzz for two songs at Days of the Doomed II back in June, so a full set was welcome. Following the energy of Black Cowgirl, they were a calmer stage presence, but tight performance-wise, and usually if it’s going to be one or the other, I’ll take that. Dana‘s guitar magically became a Hammond organ at several intervals and that was awesome as well. The Maryland contingent — a big part of SHoD for the last couple years — will have further representation from Admiral Browning in a few hours, but Beelzefuzz were a welcome dash of Krug’s Place in the meantime, making me a little wistful for Frederick. New London’s been alright in the meantime, though.
One Inch Giant
UPDATE 7:14PM: This was the last stop on Swedish rockers One Inch Giant‘s US tour. I saw the first one earlier this week in Brooklyn. Pretty awesome of an underground band, relatively unknown, to get over here and do a week of shows like that. Unlike in Brooklyn, I watched their whole set this time around, though it seems I’d seen more of it than I thought last time. They sent out a building jam to the ladies, hit the blastbeats again — frontman Filip Åstrand warning the crowd beforehand by saying, “I know you like them slow, but this one’s fast” — and gave a solid, energetic showing of their straightforward European-style heavy rock. I couldn’t help but wonder if Åstrand washed his Morbid Angel shirt between the two shows, but as I couldn’t smell him while was taking pictures, I figure probably there was laundry done at some point during the week. Their stuff was straight ahead catchy, and I think maybe some of the ideas got lost in translation between the Euro and US markets, but for both the fact that they’re here and for what they actually did while they were on stage, it was more than respectable.
UPDATE 8:11PM: As good as some of the doom I’ve seen over the last couple days has been, I don’t know if anything tops Rochester, New York’s Orodruin. They haven’t put out an album since 2003′s Epicurean Mass, but here as at Days of the Doomed, they came on and promptly blew the crowd away. John Gallo doesn’t so much play riffs as he conjures them, summoning them from his guitar in some kind of doomly ceremonial rite. The band played as a four-piece tonight, with second guitarist (and if I’m wrong on the name, please correct me) Nick Tydelski joining the melee alongside bassist/vocalist Mike Puleo and drummer Mike Waske. As a four-piece, they were no less potent than as a trio, and they had what I think was the biggest crowd of the fest so far. I didn’t count heads or anything, but all the people I’ve seen milling about the El ‘n’ Gee today finally seemed to all be in the same place at the same time. Good reason, as Orodruin are hands down one of the best traditional doom acts I’ve ever encountered live, breathing new life into what in most hands is a genre based in no small part on retread. Not knocking that, just saying that these guys have something special. Their In Doomdemo/EP is here and on sale. I bought one in Wisconsin, but I’m almost tempted to pick up another, just to have it. Fucking a.
UPDATE: 9:10PM: Anything strike you as a little strange about the picture above of Ron “Fez” McGinnis of Maryland progressive noisemakers Admiral Browning. He’s singing! When their set first started, I said to myself, “Now why the hell would they leave a microphone on stage?” thinking maybe it was just so guitarist Matt LeGrow could say thanks or something, but then Fez had one too, and sure enough, vocals. Not just vocals though, harmonies too. Either these dudes just discovered they could do that stuff or they’ve been holding out. I’d always kind of thought of Admiral Browning‘s tech-minded approach as being too complicated as to allow for structuring into verses, but it worked and it worked well. They still had plenty of instrumental material on offer, but they’ve put themselves into a different echelon entirely by adding singing, all the more so for actually being able to pull it off. And of course, as LeGrow and McGinnis were belting out the songs, drummer Tim Otis was running a marathon across his kit behind them. Legitimately, I’d be surprised if he covered any less than 26.2 miles. They paid homage to Buddy Rich with “Traps” and, after a story of how they ran into Geraldo Rivera in Coney Island earlier today, shouted out “La Araña Lobo” in his mustachioed honor. My plan had been to run out to the car and grab my long-awaited turkey sandwich from the cooler in my trunk, but Admiral Browning kept me right in here. That might not sound like high praise, but there isn’t much that beats “turkey sandwich” in my book. Kudos, gentlemen.
UPDATE 10:10PM: Chicago’s Earthen Grave went sans violin for their set. I seem to recall Rachel Barton Pine, who usually handles that instrument, being either pregnant or recently a mother, and either way, I’d expect that to account for her absence from SHoD. It’s a valid enough excuse. The show went on, as I’m told the show must, and Earthen Grave delivered a crunchier-seeming set of traditional doom and metal. Vocalist Mark Weiner has hit himself in the head on purpose both times I’ve seen the band — here and at Days of the Doomed II — and so I guess he’s just that crazy. He had on a Church of Misery shirt and was happy to show it off along with his formidable pipes, but bassist Ron Holzner has “used to be in Trouble” on his side, and that’s always an attention-getter. The band was pretty crisp, even for lacking their violin, and the assembled heads dug in wholeheartedly as they kicked into a new song, the title of which I didn’t get. Good to know they have new stuff in the works though. I did run out and grab that turkey sandwich, eating half as I sat on the lip of the open trunk of my car — a doomer tailgate party of one — but when I came back, Earthen Grave made me think perhaps I should revisit their self-titled full-length, and covered Pentagram‘s “Relentless,” which is a bit of a coincidence, since that band is about to go on stage in Brooklyn playing that album in its entirety. Go figure.
Devil to Pay
UPDATE 11:12PM: No coincidence that Devil to Pay guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak was representing the Ripple Music logo, as it was recently announced the Indianapolis four-piece had signed to that label for the release of their new album. Janiak said on stage that the record is due out in January — it’ll be their first since 2009′s Heavily Ever After– and they played a few songs from it, including the gloomy highlight “Yes, Master.” Devil to Pay are always pretty humble on stage, but they’re pretty clearly riding a high. They seemed confident and assured in their sound, guitarist Rob Hough breaking out the weekend’s first and only (to date) windmill headbang, and Janiak‘s tenure in the doomier Apostle of Solitude has brought a new dynamic to his vocals, which had a kind of post-Alice in Chains grunge feel. I had been looking forward to the new album already, but it’s good to have some affirmation for the anticipation. The night is starting to wind down, and with Pale Divine and The Skull still to go, things are about to get awfully doomed around here, but Devil to Pay‘s heavy rock was a great balance between the stoner and the doom, and Janiak is beginning to emerge as a genuine frontman presence. Cool to watch.
UPDATE 12:14AM: The funny thing about watching Pale Divine‘s set tonight was that for most of the contingent up front to see the band, they were local, like well-known, like married-to-them local. For me, seeing Pale Divine, who hail from Pennsylvania, is something exotic, something that doesn’t happen every day. It had me thinking about the bands that I feel that way about — Jersey acts like The Atomic Bitchwax or even a Long Island band like Negative Reaction — who I take for granted. My moment’s pondering didn’t last much longer than that, however, because I was astonished to see Fezzy from Admiral Browning was playing bass alongside guitarist/vocalist and band founder Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey, who also played with Beelzefuzz tonight. Fez was a little punchy on the bass, but that dude’s the kind of player that could pretty much fit in anywhere so long as it’s heavy, and it was cool to see him in a more traditionally riffy context, playing off Diener‘s Wino-inspired riffs. A highlight was “Amplified,” the opening track of their first album, Thunder Perfect Mind, and when the whole thing was done, I won the Stoner Hands of Doom raffle! More on that later, as The Skull is about to go on.
UPDATE 1:40AM: You know what the difference is between The Skull and your Trouble cover band? First of all, you don’t have a Trouble cover band, but even if you did, chances are it wouldn’t have Ron Holzner playing bass in it or Eric Wagner singing, and as someone who saw Trouble proper on their tour with Kory Clarke fronting them, I can say first hand that that makes a big fucking difference. Seems frivolous to say “Psalm 9″ and “Bastards Will Pay” were high points — the whole set was a high point. Together with guitarists and a drummer culled from Chicago metallers Sacred Dawn, Wagner and Holzner ran through a set of classics that seemed utterly antithetical to the late hour. They killed, and the people that stuck around ate it up. Nobody even spoke in between songs. Everyone just stood there and waited to see what was coming next? How about “Revelation (Life and Death)?” Well, yeah, okay, right on. I guess the big difference between tonight and when I saw The Skull at Days of the Doomed is I’m not miserable piss drunk tonight, so I’ve got that working for me. When their set was finished, Wagner said he’d keep going if someone bought him a beer, so beer was acquired and they wound up closing with “At the End of My Daze,” which was incredible of course. The bar called a “get the fuck out” last call after they were actually done, so I’m writing this in the car in the parking lot outside, about to drive back to where I’ll crash out and get up tomorrow for the final day of Stoner Hands of Doom. Tonight was unreal.
Posted in Reviews on June 8th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
By the time I had eyes to see the above wisdom scrawled on the wall next to the urinal at Cherry Street Station in Wallingford, Connecticut, I was already several Newcastles into the night. The last time I was at the venue was for a show with A Thousand Knives of Fire, Bloodcow and others, and that was years ago, but not much had changed. Bands still set up in the corner of the main room, the bar was up a couple steps and there was a patio outside for the smokers. Hockey was on the big screen and beer was cheap. I had arrived early — a fruitless stop at Redscroll Records preceded — and immediately set about chipping away at the cash in my wallet. When in doubt: drink.
I had a good hour to do so, and Newcastle goes down like candy, so the cash and the beer were both going quick by the time Stone Titan started up. Fuzz Fest — a collection of local Connecticut acts put together by Ron Vanacore of Curse the Son (who played third) — didn’t actually feature all that much fuzz. With a name like that, you’d expect six or seven Fu Manchu clones on the bill, but instead, the lineup culled acts from different prongs of the doom umbrella, starting with Stone Titan‘s heavy sonic debt to the riffs of Jimmy Bower. They were so young I wondered if they’d have been allowed at the show if they weren’t playing it, but honest about where they came from; an Eyehategod cover went a long way in transitioning them in my mind from “derivative” to “charming.”
Either way, their collective heart was in the right place, and theirs was the start of a night of several impressive covers. The Connecticut scene, if nothing else, has good taste. King of Salem, who played second, covered “Swinging the Chain” from Black Sabbath‘s Never Say Die, and that sat well alongside their straightforward heavy rock. Guitarist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli and drummer Mike Petrucci were joined by a bassist (who, if I’m not mistaken, had the night’s only five-string; one too many) and guitarist who looked imported directly from another band.
I was a fan of King of Salem‘s Prophecyway back when I reviewed it, so it was cool to hear some of that material live, and while it was abundantly clear that Tuozzoli and Petrucci were the core of the band, the other half, situated on the right side of the stage area, did well with their parts, the guitarist adding solos to Tuozzoli‘s riffs that were both fluid and accomplished. It was a strange set, but a good one, and an excellent transition point between Stone Titan and Vanacore‘s own outfit, who occupied the center position on the bill.
After hearing their Klonopain full-length, I suspected that the disc, while enough to give an overall impression of their sound (and a favorable one), didn’t do the band full justice, and their live show proved that assertion correct. Petrucci was pulling double-duty, drumming for Curse the Son as well as King of Salem, and he’d reportedly only practiced with Vanacore and bassist Cheech once, two days earlier, but you wouldn’t have known it watching the trio play. He adapted to the songs excellently, and Vanacore‘s tone, which came out of two green cabinets and a green head with “WEED” where “Green” might otherwise have been, was among the highlights of the night.
As the driving force behind the show, their crowd was the biggest. The way the P.A. speakers were set up, it made the stage area look small, but it was actually deep enough so that most of the equipment was backlined, and the high ceiling in the room made it so Curse the Son were able to pull off a loud, full sound, which they did, expressing a clear love for the riffy arts. Admirable enough that Vanacore got the show together in the first place, but doubly so that Curse the Son didn’t then headline or screw anyone into a shitty timeslot. It was a well-constructed evening and good to see everyone getting into the bands. Going to shows in New York, it’s easy to get lost sometimes in how much of a social obligation it is. For me at least, as an outsider up for the weekend, it was refreshing to have it be just about the music.
And just when I was most feeling that after Curse the Son‘s set, there came Lord Fowl. It’s not really doing them justice to call them the “find of the night,” because I’d heard three of the total five bands before, but they fucking destroyed, either way. A double-guitar/double-vocal four-piece from just south on I-91 in New Haven, they powered through a set that included the best cover of Thin Lizzy‘s “The Boys are Back in Town” that I’ve ever heard — and I’ve heard a few — and hands down the night’s highest rock quotient. Their set had that same feeling you get watching Roadsaw or one of those really killer Small Stone acts rip it up, where you just know this is how rock and roll should be done and the bullshit factor is nil.
They had a CD for sale, which I bought, and if there’d been others, I’d have gotten them too. The night had already been a winner, but Lord Fowl absolutely made it, and when they finished, I immediately commenced nerding out about how righteously good they were. I haven’t listened to the disc yet only for lack of time, but I’ll get there for sure, as I want to hear if they’ll be able to translate their live energy to an album. Here’s hoping.
Post-that, anything was going to be a comedown, but Sea of Bones closed out the night in front of a wall of amplifiers (the drums, also huge) and emitted the kind of volume that rendered earplugs all but useless. Seriously, I could feel them vibrating in my ears. The levels on their three mics — one for each member of the band — were off, but honestly, with that much noise coming from the cabs, I don’t think anything would have helped. You could’ve blown out the P.A. three times over and still not heard the screams of drummer Kevin, guitarist Tom or bassist Gary (all first names only). Easy to blame the sound guy for that, but even he could only do so much to stem their massive tonality.
My last beer was gone by the time they started playing, and it had been my intention to split a couple songs in, but Sea of Bones held my attention and feet in place. If you’ve never heard them, their ultra-doom borders on post-metal at times, but is mostly angrier and less intellectually pretentious than much of that genre. If they toured, you wouldn’t need my recommendation to check them out, because they’d already be huger even than Tom‘s pedal board. What they had in common with the rest of the acts in the Fuzz Fest lineup, though was a readily evident passion for what they were doing.
And if you’re going to book a show of local acts and try and foster a developing scene, that’s how you do it: by loving what you do and showing that to others. Kudos to Vanacore on picking the lineup he did (the shout-out in my direction from the stage was unnecessary, but also appreciated), since they may have all come from different ends of the genre, but there was an undercurrent that bound them all the same. When I left, it was too late for me to call my mother as per the advice of the men’s room wall, but I was comfortable anyway in knowing my time had been well spent.
New Haven, Connecticut, purveyors Curse the Son got their start a few months after the untimely end of guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore‘s prior outfit, Sufferghost. Sufferghost guitarist Tony Buhagiar was inflicted with a burst aortic aneurysm in 2007, and though he survived, that was more or less the end of the band. Together with bassist Cheech and drummer Rich Lemley, Curse the Son is now among the brighter hopes for doom in the Land of Steady Habits. The trio self-released their first full-length, Klonopain, late last year and are actively trying to ignite the Connecticut scene, playing host to the inaugural CT Fuzzfest on June 4 at Cherry St. Station in Wallingford.
It’s a formidable lineup joining Curse the Son on the CT Fuzzfest bill (you can see it below; all that’s missing is When the Deadbolt Breaks to bring in some ultra-doomed atmosphere), and I wanted to get a sense from Vanacore about what his hopes were for Curse the Son and the scene as a whole. Klonopain draws influence from a host of thick-riff purveyors, and aside from an understanding of the timeline between moving from Sufferghost to this project, I was hoping to find out what was driving Vanacore stylistically and in terms of keeping Curse the Son its own entity musically.
The guitarist was happy to cooperate, and I’m proud to say that of all the email interviews ever conducted for this site (and that’s plenty), this is the first one to have ever been done via private messages back and forth on the forum. I don’t know how you feel about that, but I think it’s awesome.
So thanks to Vanacore for taking part and please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:
1. After Sufferghost ended, how did you decide to start over again with Curse the Son? Are you still in touch with Tony? What’s his current condition?
It was not a decision that came easy. When Sufferghost ended, I was so devastated that I just stopped playing music altogether. You see Tony and I have a really cool relationship. There is this unbelievable chemistry between us. There were never any disagreements…we genuinely love and respect each other’s riffs, lyrics and ideas. I’ve never been in a situation like that where two guys are literally in the same head space all the time… It was incredible!
But when it ended so suddenly, it was a shock to the system. I couldn’t even go into the band room anymore, it was to depressing knowing it was over. I think it was about six months later, Tony and I were talking and he told me that I needed to play again. That is when I began writing material for Curse the Son.
As far as my relationship with Tony now, we talk all the time. He moved back to his hometown of Hayward, California, a couple years back. After a lot of hard work, he is back playing guitar again! His new band is called Tuco Ramirez and they rule. Good old ‘70s style hard rock. It makes me so happy to know he is playing again, I miss him dearly and hope that one day he returns to the East Coast so we can pick up where we left off.
2. What are some of the differences stylistically between Curse the Son and Sufferghost? Is there anything specific you wanted to do differently in this new band?
Stylistically, I view Curse the Son as a flip of the Sufferghost style. With Sufferghost it was classic stoner with doom accents. The Curse the Son sound is much doomier without losing the sense of melody and cohesion Sufferghost had.
Tony is a much better guitar player than I could ever hope to be. The dude has the chops. I am a much more rhythm based guitar player. So I play to my strengths… the riffs and the groove.
3. Has your songwriting process changed at all with the switch? How do you come up with riffs, and how do the songs come together from there?
The very first time me and Tony jammed I recorded it. It was such a good jam that we ended up with all the riffs for three out of the four songs on our Leave the Church EP! Most of our tunes came from jamming.
The process changed dramatically as Curse the Son began. It was me and my 8-track. Get stoned and write riffs for hours. Then hash out the quality ideas and start putting the song together. It was an abstract process but I’m pretty fortunate that I have the ability to hear a “finished song” way before it’s actually finished.
Initially there was no band, it was just my vision. I had no idea what I was going to do with the music. I just wanted to create something that was crushingly heavy and would honor my friend.
4. Tell me about recording the songs for the full-length. How do the album versions of the tracks that were originally on the EP compare to the originals?
The basic tracks for our CD Klonopain were recorded live. Just the three of us in the same room vibing off each other. It was a very cool, stress free experience. We recorded it at Underground Sound here in Connecticut. The owner Chris DelVecchio, is a good friend of mine and he gave me free rein over the place. We started recording on a nice sunny day in mid-May 2010, and didn’t wrap it up until December! I took my time with it because I could. Klonopain is the first record I’ve ever been a part of where I am 100 percent happy with everything about it.
As far as the Globus Hystericus EP goes, you have to remember that I recorded all the instruments myself. The intention was to have a product that I could use to promote the Curse the Son name and sound. Soon after its release I started to look for likeminded musicians to play with.
It was Cheech (bass) and Rich (drums)’s idea to rerecord those four songs. I was hesitant at first, but I’m really glad we did it because the new versions just bury those EP tracks, no question.
5. I know about the Redscroll Records store and Cherry St. Station in Wallingford and a couple other places around, but is there a Connecticut scene at this point? Are there other bands you especially enjoy playing with, or is everyone up in Massachusetts?
There is actually something starting to happen again in the New Haven scene. Mostly this is due to a couple friends of mine, Opus (Dead by Wednesday) and Eric Morton (Big E Promotions) who have been booking metal nights at places like Cherry St. Station in Wallingford and Bix’s Cafe in Branford. Toad’s Place has turned a blind eye towards metal for the most part, which sucks. The CT scene is weird, it comes and goes every 5-10 years or so.
Most of the bands we play with are very different from us, but we seem to fit in on any bill and we usually stand out which is always cool. I didn’t think there were any other stoner/doomy type bands around here but I was wrong!! They are just spread out all over the place and have never unified. I am hoping to give that a boost with CT Fuzzfest 2011 which takes place at Cherry St. Station on June 4. As far as I know there has never been any type of show featuring all bands like us here. I hope it gives the whole genre a kickstart around here. It’s time for Connecticut to get on board!
The lineup for the gig is: Sea of Bones
Curse the Son
King of Salem
6. What’s next for you guys? Any plans for shows around or outside of Connecticut or more recording before the end of the year?
The next step is to begin writing for the next release. I have a bunch of riffs ready to go, and look forward to jammin’ with the fellas.
We would love to play out of state, if we can find the right gigs, right bands and the right venues. Touring is probably not a reality as of now, but if the right opportunity came, hell yeah!
I hope to get the band back in the studio by late fall and have the next CD out in early 2012.
Thanks to your readers who have responded with such excitement and purchased the CD. To purchase Klonopain, it is $5 shipped (US) $10 (UK). Core9@netscape.net is our contact email and Paypal address.
Posted in Reviews on February 23rd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Comprised of two-thirds of the now-defunct stoner outfit Sufferghost, Hamden, Connecticut riffers Curse the Son emerge with the first full-length since their 2007 inception, the self-released Klonopain. It’s an album almost entirely unabashed in its influences, proudly flying the backpatches of Sabbath, Sleep, Trouble and Goatsnake in its seven component tracks, the vocals of guitarist Ron Vanacore fitting right in line with the heavier end of slow stoner/doom rock. Curse the Son, more or less in a wasteland as regards their local scene, maximize their tonal heft in Vanacore’s guitars and the bass of Cheech (no, it’s not thatCheech), as if making up for what other bands might also have on offer, while also keeping a more or less straightforward approach to the style that should be familiar to those experienced in the ways of the heavy underground. In many ways, Curse the Son is a scene band without the scene. All the more respectable then, for them to stand alone and not compromise on what they want to be musically.
And judging by the material on Klonopain – four tracks of which appeared on Curse the Son’s 2009 Globus Hystericus EP in previously-recorded versions – what they want to be musically is slow. To their credit, even when they’re not playing slow, on parts of “Anullus of Zin” or opener “Unbearable Doer of Wrong,” they sound like they are. Vanacore’s guitar tone is essential to this, as he takes a heavily-fedback solo on the opening cut, offsetting some of the Goatsnake-ery in the central riff, but still keeping that molasses-boogie feel. Drummer Rich Lemley does well with the tempo changes the riffs present, but isn’t a flashy player by any stretch or as present in the mix cymbal-wise as he might be on other records in this style. No doubt, Klonopain is led by the guitar and mixed in a way that heavily favors it, but for weedian riff metal, that’s more or less par for the course. Vanacore’s vocals – entirely clean and in the Sabotage-era Ozzy tradition – offer enough change throughout to stave off monotony, patterning themselves on “Y?” in a way that reminds of what Floor did so well and only recently got credit for: blending semi-melodic vocal accessibility with balls-heavy doom guitar, while also leaving room to kick into ultra-Sabbath mode toward the end, launching with a suitable “Right!”